LASC’s Distance Education Program
WHAT IS DISTANCE EDUCATION LEARNING?
The 2009 Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA) recently separated distance education from correspondence education by defining each:
DEFINITION OF DISTANCE EDUCATION
“Distance education is defined, for the purpose of accreditation review as a formal interaction which uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and which supports regular and substantive interaction between the students and instructor, either synchronously or asynchronously. Distance education often incorporates technologies such as the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; audio conferencing; or video cassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, in conjunction with any of the other technologies.
THE DISTANCE EDUCTION MISSION
“To support online success and retention by ensuring uniformity in terms of Learning Management System (LMS) and online instructor responsibility and accountability, according to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Contract (Article 40). Also, the purpose of this document is to provide clear expectations, guidelines and policies for instructors teaching online in order to adhere to the requirements of ACCJC.”
HISTORY OF LASC DISTANCE EDUCATION
Los Angeles Southwest College began offering online classes in 2007, at the same time many other colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District started their program.
LASC faculty, staff and administrations firmly believe that it is the college’s responsibility to serve, reach out to, and to educate the community at large in a traditional and non-traditional forum.
As a result, distance education at LASC was launched. The college shared the purchase of MOODLE, a learning management system (LMS), with other district colleges, and begin the process of training instructors on the system, and providing pedagogy consultation through the 2007-2011 CAOT 134 class (Computer Assisted Office Technology), “How to teach an online course.” In addition, this course was made available to students desiring to take courses online to better understand the LMS and to be introduced to this DE methodology.
This process effectively prepared its students and faculty to successfully enter into an unfamiliar learning environment to achieve a common goal. That goal has proven to have met the demands of the local community unable to take part in a traditional learning environment due to work, transportation, or disabilities. Therefore, LASC created a very structured, stable and accomplished online learning environment that has sustained for nearly 6 years.
To assist with maintaining the online program, the Curriculum Committee has been charged with reviewing and approving all online courses prior to being released. Meanwhile, the Distance Education Committee (DEC) was formed to ensure that all DE courses met the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) section 508 Standards, which “...address access for people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.” The committee was charged with addressing faculty and student concerns, implementing policies and regulations per ACCJC guidelines, and regulating the effectiveness of the LMS. DEC members meet the third Monday of the month regularly.
More than a decade later, the Distance Education Program at LASC has become a successful tool to uniquely educate the community of learners. Students have taken advantage of the variety of courses available online.
In 2011, the Distance Education Committee created the Distance Education Guidelines, Policies and Procedures Manual (see Appendix A), which provides checklists, guidance, and standards that meet ACCJC’s DE compliances.
The goal now is to conduct a mandatory on-campus orientation and certification training for new online faculty that will focus on pedagogy and DE methodologies to make certain that DE students receive the same educational experience as students in a traditional setting.
United States Access Board, www.access-board.gov